On August 16th, the IRC in Charlottesville hosted a back-to-school event for refugee students at the Central Library. The event provided a wonderful opportunity to recognize those students who have demonstrated academic excellence and achievement, or who have maintained perfect attendance over the past school year. “School can be a challenging environment for any new student. Compound that with the fact that many of these students are learning English, while also learning other subjects in English, and the challenge becomes even greater. These students and their parents have overcome so much – it’s important to recognize them,” said IRC Family Support Coordinator, Mirna Dickey.
The event also hosted a student speaker, a former refugee and recent graduate of Charlottesville High School, who spoke about his educational transformation over the past few years from someone who spoke very little English, to someone who will now go on to attend Piedmont Virginia Community College. As Dickey added, “We hope that these students can serve as role-models and inspire newly-arriving children. They see children with similar experiences to theirs succeeding and they know they can too.”
More than 80 refugee students and their parents attended the event. Representatives from the Library, as well as City and County Schools were present to welcome newly-arriving families, as were IRC Staff members, interns, and volunteer interpreters. IRC volunteer Jesse Gandy curated the entire event, decorating the room with globes, books, and flowers, and baking cookies for everyone to enjoy at the end.
As families left, newly-arrived students received backpacks filled with school supplies for the coming school year. Backpacks and school supplies were donated by Backpack Buddies of Central Virginia, Daughters of Penelope, the congregation of St. Mark Lutheran Church, and various other individuals.